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Howstrake
Postal Services

 

A post office was opened in Onchan Village in 1855. The sub post office at Port Jack, which is officially listed as Royal Avenue Post Office, came into existence in July 1911, under the control of Mr W.H. Gale. The huge increase in tourist accommodation in the Port Jack area since the turn of the century would well justify this additional facility.

The post boxes in Howstrake are of interest in that they indicate the development of the area. That with the earliest Royal cypher was formerly known as Onchan Harbour and was numbered 126. It is built into the wall near to the gate lodge of the former Majestic Hotel and bears the cypher "VR". It is reputed to have been installed in about 1900. As there were only three houses and the Howstrake farm in the immediate vicinity at the turn of the century, it would seem an unlikely location for a box in Victoria's reign. It may have been intended to serve the guests at the Douglas Bay Hotel but, in that case, a box at Port Jack would have been more convenient. In 1991 it was one of only a few remaining boxes in the Island which carried the monogram of Queen Victoria. This box is now known as MAJESTIC HOTEL and numbered 37. A further box bearing the "VR" cypher is at Groudle Station. It was originally numbered 113 but is now 94. This was installed in 1903 after Victoria's death, and is an example of the use of existing stocks of boxes after a sovereign's death. The box at the foot of Royal Avenue, un-named and numbered 38, has the "E VII R" cypher, (1901 - 1910). That at Groudle Road, numbered 36, bears the "G VI R" cypher, (1936 - 1952). The box at Port Jack is known as ROYAL AVE P.O., has the "E II R" cypher and is numbered 39. With the exception of George V, all crowned monarchs are represented in Howstrake within a radius of perhaps half a mile.

An unusual box, said to have been erected in about 1948, may be seen a little to the right of the entrance to the former Douglas Bay Hotel. This is set into the wall, and although painted red like an official box, is marked "PRIVATE LETTER BOX. DOUGLAS BAY HOTEL". The door has no aperture for inserting letters and presumably was used for bulk mail either to or from the hotel.

From 1894 the Post Office's bulk mail was carried by the Tramway Company as far as Laxey. A further contract of 1903 extended this mail carrying function on to Ramsey. The contract was won in competition with the steam railway and the electric tramway's proposal that their conductors should collect the mail from post boxes along their line may have tipped the balance in their favour. The conductors were sworn in as auxiliary postmen to carry out these duties. Two of the boxes involved were in Howstrake, the Groudle box, from about 1903, and after the start of the 1939 war the box at Onchan Harbour came into the scheme. Collections ceased on 9th September 1972 as a result of the reductions in the Winter operating schedules introduced by the tramway company.

The Onchan Internment Camp had its own postal arrangements. The internees were permitted limited amounts of mail which were subjected to censorship. The Onchan camp was known as "O CAMP" and outgoing mail was stamped "O CAMP POST OFFICE - ONCHAN IOM", or, "ONCHAN INTERNMENT CAMP. CAMP POST OFFICE", in each case with a date. Such mail often reached its destination amazingly quickly. One item sent from Onchan on 19th December 1941 arrived in Italy on 9th January 1942.